Final Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism

Posted by on 2:08 pm in The Film | 2 comments

ReportCoverIn August 2014, three months after the release of “Outcasts,” Governor Haslam appointed 27 members to the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism, including six members of the legislature, five current and former district attorneys general, three sheriffs and police chiefs, a county mayor, five executive branch officials, three judges, one public defender, one victim advocate, one community programming provider, and two representatives of the business community. Their mission was to improve public safety in Tennessee by identifying (1) strategies to reduce recidivism among individuals leaving prisons and jails and (2) changes to sentencing laws and practices that will more effectively use criminal justice resources to reduce crime and address the growth of the prison and jail population.

To achieve its mission, the Task Force was supported by the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and its staff that traveled the state soliciting stakeholder opinions, organized presentations for Task Force meetings, and facilitated four working groups: Sentencing Structure, Sentencing Classifications and Enhancements, Community Supervision, and Programming and Treatment.

Among the recommendations to reduce recidivism were:

  • Establish individualized case management plans for felony offenders on community supervision (both probation and post-prison), thereby reducing the number of standard and special conditions and tailoring the conditions of supervision to fit each offender’s individual risks and needs.
  • Invest in evidence-based, cost effective, and coordinated transitional programming and treatment services both during and after incarceration.
  • Ensure that all incarcerated felony offenders are released, and supported by, a system of post-release community supervision.
  • Develop and implement a system of positive incentives for those on community supervision, including but not limited to a reduction in the time period of supervision.
  • Increase the employability of those with criminal convictions by taking steps to help them keep or obtain driver’s licenses or state photo identifications.
  • Examine the management and treatment of sex offenders to reduce recidivism and protect society.
  • Raise the felony property crime threshold to $1,000.
  • Support a Social Impact Bond model of investment as a way of funding promising re-entry programs.

The full draft copy of the Task Force report may be downloaded here. TF final report draft July 31 2015

We commend Governor Haslam, the TDOC, the Vera Institute and the 27 members of the Task Force. Hopefully, once the report’s recommendations are implemented, thousands of formerly incarcerated individuals can achieve another chance at a productive, fulfilling life.

My Son Will Die in Prison

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zOuTLEmkrjtCyKt-556x313-croppedPetitioning Jerry Brown
Reduce my son’s unjust sentence

Petition by Elizabeth Stewart
Santee, California

The following is from
My son Jeremy Stewart has been given 70 years in prison for stealing. He was convicted of burglarizing two homes while the residents were out. There was no confrontation, no threats, and no violence at the time California had a harsh three strikes law. My son had two prior nonviolent offenses, the judge made the decision to enforce the law to the fullest.

I have been fighting for a fairer punishment ever since.

Under previous California law, Jeremy would have most likely been sentenced to about 12-15 years in prison. But because of California’s 3 Strikes law, Jeremy received a harsher sentence than drug cartel hit men who had confessed to killing more than 20 people. They only got 25-years-to-life.

Jeremy’s poor decisions were made while he was dealing with a serious drug addiction and depression. He needed treatment and rehabilitation.This doesn’t excuse his conduct and he knows he needs to face consequences for his actions. But 70 years to life with no good time credits allowed, means he won’t be eligible for parole until he is 96. The cost, 5 million dollars to taxpayers. This is an unjust and  inhumane death sentence, all for nonviolent offense.

Jeremy is not the only one being punished — I am raising his two children in his absence. Every day, these innocent young children suffer emotionally missing their father. I struggle financially working to afford day care and their basic needs.This unjust sentence means his children will never be able share the same four walls as their father. He should have an opportunity to earn the right to return home to provide for his two young children, Heatherly and David, currently ages 5 and 6.

Today Jeremy is serving his sentence at Calipatria State Prison. He tutors other inmates, leads the Christian worship services and the Narcotics Anonymous group. He currently has a 4.2 GPA through Coastline College and will graduate in November 2015. He has been a model prisoner.

Jeremy made a terrible mistake, but should a nonviolent crime put him behind bars for life?  A Petition for Clemency has been sent to Governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown to exercise his discretion and reduce Jeremy’s sentence. I am asking the Governor to reduce his sentence to 20 years. I humbly and respectfully request your support.

Please sign my petition and stand by me and my family as we fight to give Jeremy the chance to come home one day.
Thank you.
Elizabeth Stewart

Sign Elizabeth’s Petition Now

The Grand Old Paramount

Posted by on 4:37 pm in The Film | 0 comments

paramount cener for the arts, bristol, tennessee

The Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tennessee is a grand old theater.(Photo: Stephen Newton)

As you know, we were honored to be selected by the Push Film Festival in Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia. Push is our fourth film festival and since it’s a 30 minute drive away, the closest to us.  The screening of “Outcasts: Surviving the Culture of Rejection” was held at the Paramount Center for the Performing Arts, on the Tennessee side of State Street, which divides the town right down the middle between Tennessee and Virginia. The festival jurors awarded the film with a Certificate of Excellence.

It was exciting to see “Outcasts” on the big screen in such a grand old theater. It was like stepping back in time when we took our seats inside. Before the show, pipe organ music from a giant Wurlitzer organ (you can see the pipes) fills the entire theater…and suddenly you have time-traveled to an era when movie theaters offered much more than popcorn. As a boy, I knew that once I took my seat in the darkened theater, I was in a different world where anything was possible,  and more than eager to suspend my disbelief and live inside the film with the actors. I had that same feeling today at the Paramount.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Paramount is an excellent example of the art deco motion picture palaces built in the late 1920’s and early 30’s. The restoration in the 90s retained the Paramount’s opulent, richly embellished interior. The original Venetian-styled murals and the art deco ambiance were faithfully recreated. The auditorium holds 756. You’ll feel as though you are a part of the performance from every seat in the theater.

After the screening, there was a Q & A for nearly 45 minutes. We answered a lot of questions and were happy to see many long-time “Outcasts” fans in the audience, like Maura Ubinger, who have seen the film on television, online, from a DVD, or at other local screenings and were there to support the festival and us. It was a great day for the film.

Hats off to Rusty Sheridan and  a big thank you to everyone connected to the first annual Push Film Festival.

Outcasts is a 2015 PUSH Film Festival Selection

Posted by on 2:10 pm in The Film | 0 comments

Push Filmm FestivalGreat news! Outcasts will be screened at the PUSH! Film Festival, a first-year event that will take place on the weekend of June 12—14, 2015 in bustling Historic Downtown Bristol TN/VA.

Outcasts will be shown Sunday June 14th at 11am at the Paramount Theatre (518 State St. Bristol, TN).

As a celebration of the cinematic and visual arts in the heart of the twin cities of Bristol, the festival will bring diverse films to our community and showcase the best regional filmmakers. PUSH! aims to expand the artistic image of our region, engage new audiences in the world of film, and inspire creativity in all of us. The festival will also play host to exciting parties and workshops for filmmakers and audience members alike. PUSH! will offer something for people of all ages; you won’t want to miss any of the three days of this unique cultural experience.

“Outcasts” is official selection at 2015 SouthEastern Film Festival

Posted by on 2:07 pm in The Film | 0 comments

seffsmalllogoThe 2015 Southeastern Film Festival (SEFF), presented by the University of North Georgia, Dahlonega, Georgia, has selected “Outcasts: Surviving the Culture of Rejection,” for screening April 10 – 12, and again in Nashville in November. This year’s program recognizes international and American independent cinema. This includes Documentary, Narrative, Experimental, Animation, Music Videos, New Media, and Screenwriting.

The 2015 film selection includes feature films from 11 countries, including 10 International Premieres. The 2015 film slate was chosen from a total of 1713 submissions from 43 countries.   “A unique component of this year’s Festival is that we accepted waivers at the beginning of the submission process, so film professionals from disenfranchised countries had the opportunity to enter. We are proud to host filmmakers that might not otherwise have the chance to allow audiences to see their work,” said Festival Director, Ava Leigh Stewart

75 judges from all around the world, who specialize in all areas of creative development, determined the program. Celebrity film judges include Del Shores, Chris Frantz, Sylvia Reed, Roddy Bogawa, and J.J. Sedelmaier. Festival founders include Ava Leigh Stewart, Seth Scofield, Katie Gathmann, Jeremy Oliver Miller, Leo Santaiti, Spencer Drate, Judith Salavetz, Brooks Robinson, and Orlando Vargas Diaz. Our Junior Board members include, Teddy Gathmann, Tony “T-REP” Betton, Anna Moran, Ben Klecan, Farrel Anne, Danielle Bennett, Ryan Lambert, Katie Morris, and Amanda Daly.

Why Are So Many Women In Prison?

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This short film is from Brave New FIlms; Justice 3

How The School to Prison Pipeline Ruins Lives Before They Start.

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This short film is from Brave New Films: Justice 2

What Are The Odds You’ll Go To Prison?

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This short film is from BRAVE NEW FILMS: JUSTICE #1

The Amazing Results When You Give a Prison Inmate a Liberal Arts Education

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Prison reform activist Max Kenner champions the transformative power of a college degree for inmates nationwide

By Jerry Adler
Smithsonian Magazine
November 2014

The idea came to Max Kenner in 1999, but he can’t recall just when or how. He knew no one who was incarcerated. He just knew that a few years earlier Congress had decreed that prisoners were no longer eligible for Pell tuition grants, putting a stop to most prison education programs. Having recently discovered for himself the thrill of serious intellectual enterprise, he decided to attempt to bring the same experience to some of the 71,000 inmates in New York State’s sprawling penal system.

Read more:

Kids for Cash: A Big Payoff for Zero Tolerance

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Kids for Cash is a Documentary Film by Robert May.

KIDS FOR CASH is a riveting look behind the notorious scandal that rocked the nation when it first came to light in 2009. Beginning in the wake of the shootings at Columbine, a small town in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania elected a charismatic judge who was hell-bent on keeping kids in line. Under his reign, over 3,000 children were ripped from their families and imprisoned for years for crimes as petty as creating a fake MySpace page. When one parent dared to question this harsh brand of justice, it was revealed that the judge had received millions of dollars in payments from the privately-owned juvenile detention centers where the kids—most of them only in their early teens—were incarcerated.

Exposing the hidden scandal behind the headlines, KIDS FOR CASH unfolds like a real-life thriller. Charting the previously untold stories of the masterminds at the center of the scandal, the film reveals a shocking American secret told from the perspectives of the villains, the victims and the unsung heroes who helped uncover the scandal. In a major dramatic coup, the film features extensive, exclusive access to the judges behind the scheme. Now serving a 28 year sentence in federal prison, the former juvenile court judge at the heart of the scandal shares his ulterior motives, revealing that his attorneys never knew about his interviews for this film.

Visit the Kids for Cash Website